Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Likud colleagues Monday that the government would build 280 new housing units in the West Bank settlement of Beit El, as part of a plan to relocate five buildings in the adjacent illegal outpost of Givat Ulpana.
The prime minister was trying to convince his party’s MKs not to vote Wednesday for a “regularization bill” that would legalize the Ulpana outpost, and others like it, bypassing a Supreme Court ruling on the issue. Early indications were that the tactic would prove effective, with reports that the bill is set to fail or possibly be withdrawn by its sponsors.
On Sunday, Netanyahu had presented an alternative to the bill, a three-point plan to dismantle the five buildings and rebuild them elsewhere within Beit El, a few hundred meters away. The Supreme Court has ruled that they must be demolished by July 1.
Speaking to the Likud faction on Monday, Netanyahu said Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein had approved the plan to demolish and rebuild the five buildings, constructed on land that the state has accepted is privately Palestinian-owned. He also said the cost of dismantling the five buildings would be between NIS 6 million and 7 million ($1.5 to $2 million), and that the cost of rebuilding them would be another NIS 6 million to 7 million.
The 280 new buildings to be constructed in Beit El would fulfill the second stage of Netanyahu’s plan, according to which some 10 housing units would be added to existing settlements for each one demolished.
Before addressing the Likud faction on Monday, the prime minister also met with residents of Givat Ulpana in what representatives described as a “difficult meeting.” The residents were set to meet with Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser when Netanyahu decided to join them.
Hadas Birnbaum, the daughter of MK Yaakov Katz (head of the National Union), who is currently on a hunger strike to protest the impending demolition of the five buildings in Givat Ulpana, was among the meeting’s attendees. They accused the prime minister of deception and said his coalition would fall if the houses are demolished, adding that a solution cannot be made in the “last 48 hours.”
They added that the government had sent them to live there and that their evacuation is “blatantly wrong.”